Merchant of Venice: Texts and Contexts / Edition 1

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This edition of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice reprints the Bevington edition of the play along with documents and illustrations thematically arranged to offer a richly textured understanding of early modern culture and Shakespeare’s work within that culture. The texts include maps, woodcuts, sermons, statutes, early modern documents reflecting Christian attitudes toward Jews and Jewish reactions to these attitudes, excerpts from the Bible on moneylending as well as contemporary discourses on usury and commerce, anti-Catholic tracts, travel accounts, diplomatic reports, scenes from a morality play about the corrupting effects of treatment of aliens, conduct literature, and contemporary treatises on the role of women. The documents illuminate religious controversy at the time of Shakespeare’s play, some of his sources, the place of Venice in the early modern English imagination, merchant culture, and marriage, sexuality, and friendship in the period.
Editorial features designed to help readers relate the play to historical documents include an engaging general introduction, an introduction to each thematic group of documents, headnotes and glosses for the primary documents (presented in modern spelling), and an extensive bibliography.

Presents the original text of Shakespeare's play side by side with a modern version, with marginal notes and explanations and full descriptions of each character.

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Editorial Reviews

A collection of new perspectives on Shakespeare's most controversial play, for students. Essays open up the play's historical, cultural, and political significance, and demonstrate some of the ways in which contemporary criticism is both based on critical theory and is also about the practice of criticism. Specific subjects include Shakespeare and the Jews, colonization and miscegenation in the play, how to read the play without being heterosexist, and Venetian patriarchy. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
From the Publisher
"...a suitable pedagogic edition, particularly for higher-level courses."—Abdulla Al-Dabbagh, Sixteenth Century Jourbanal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312256241
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's
  • Publication date: 3/4/2002
  • Series: Bedford Shakespeare Series
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 377
  • Sales rank: 441,541
  • Product dimensions: 5.52 (w) x 8.17 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1564, and his birth is traditionally celebrated on April 23. The facts of his life, known from surviving documents, are sparse. He was one of eight children born to John Shakespeare, a merchant of some standing in his community. William probably went to the King’s New School in Stratford, but he had no university education. In November 1582, at the age of eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, eight years his senior, who was pregnant with their first child, Susanna. She was born on May 26, 1583. Twins, a boy, Hamnet ( who would die at age eleven), and a girl, Judith, were born in 1585. By 1592 Shakespeare had gone to London working as an actor and already known as a playwright. A rival dramatist, Robert Greene, referred to him as “an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers.” Shakespeare became a principal shareholder and playwright of the successful acting troupe, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later under James I, called the King’ s Men). In 1599 the Lord Chamberlain’s Men built and occupied the Globe Theater in Southwark near the Thames River. Here many of Shakespeare’s plays were performed by the most famous actors of his time, including Richard Burbage, Will Kempe, and Robert Armin. In addition to his 37 plays, Shakespeare had a hand in others, including Sir Thomas More and The Two Noble Kinsmen, and he wrote poems, including Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. His 154 sonnets were published, probably without his authorization, in 1609. In 1611 or 1612 he gave up his lodgings in London and devoted more and more time to retirement in Stratford,though he continued writing such plays as The Tempest and Henry VII until about 1613. He died on April 23 1616, and was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford. No collected edition of his plays was published during his life-time, but in 1623 two members of his acting company, John Heminges and Henry Condell, put together the great collection now called the First Folio.

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Read an Excerpt

In The Merchant of Venice, the penniless but attractive Bassanio seeks, and finally wins, the hand of the fabulously wealthy Portia. But even as the play provokes laughter, it also provokes something disturbing, as Bassanio's courtship is actually financed by the magnificent villain Shylock the moneylender -- the focus of anti-Semitic sentiment, and one of the most controversial yet strangely sympathetic of Shakespeare's characters, whose actions and whose treatment in the play are still debated to this day.

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Table of Contents


William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
(Edited by David Bevington)

Cultural Contexts

1. Venice 
English Ideas of Venice and Italians
Nation, Race, and Religion
     William Thomas, From The History of Italy
     Thomas Coryate, From Coryates Crudities
     Dudley Carleton, The English Ambassador’s Notes
     William Bedell, Letter to Adam Newton
     A Discovery of the Great Subtlety and Wonderful Wisdom of the Italians
     Robert Wilson, From The Three Ladies of London
     Queen Elizabeth I, Proclamation Ordering Peace Kept in London
     Sir Edward Coke, From The Reports
     Fynes Moryson, From An Itinerary
     John Leo, From A Geographical History of Africa
     George Best, From A True Discourse of the Late Voyages of Discovery, for the Finding
     of a Passage to Cathaya
     John Leo, From A Geographical History of Africa
     Sebastian Munster, From The Messiah of the Christians and the Jews
     Andrew Willet, From Concerning the Universal and Final Vocation of the Jews
2. Finance                                                                                                                                        
     Biblical Laws
     Thomas Wilson,
From A Discourse upon Usury by Way of Dialogue and Orations
     Debate on the Usury Bill
     Usury Bill
     Francis Bacon, Of Usury
     Sir Edward Coke, From The Institutes of the Laws of England
     Yehiel Nissim da Pisa, From The Eternal Life
     David de Pomis, From De Medico Hebraeo
     Leon Modena, From The History of Rites, Customs, and Manners of Life, of the Present   
     Jews, throughout the World
     Sir Thomas Sherley, The Profit That May Be Raised to Your Majesty out of the Jews
     Nicolas de Nicolay, From The Navigations, Peregrinations, and Voyages made into    
     The Levant Company’s Charter
     John Wheeler, From A Treatise of Commerce
     Daniel Price, The Merchant: A Sermon Preached at Paul’s Cross
3. Religion                                                                                                                                          
     Catholics versus Protestants
     Jews as Other
     Jews in England

     John Foxe, From Acts and Monuments
     William Allen, From A True, Sincere, and Modest Defense of English Catholics
     Robert Parsons, From A Brief Discourse Containing Certain Reasons Why Catholics
     Refuse  to go to Church
     Queen Elizabeth I, Proclamations on Priests
     St. Paul, On Law and Grace
     Andrew Willet, From Tetrastylon Papisticum
     Richard Bristow, From Demands to be Proponed of Catholics to the Heretics
     William Perkins, From A Faithful and Plain Exposition upon the To First Verses of the    
     Second Chapter of Zephaniah
     Gregory Martin, From Roma Sancta
     Thomas Draxe, From The World’s Resurrection
     Samuel Usque, From Consolation for the Tribulations of Israel
     John Foxe, From Acts and Monuments
     Raphael Holinshed, From Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland
     John Foxe, From Acts and Monuments
     From Fleta
     Examination of Roderigo Lopez
     William Camden, From The History of Elizabeth, Queen of England
4. Love and Gender                                                                                                                        
     Women and Marriage
     Friendship and Homosociality
     Juan Luis Vives,
From The Instruction of a Christian Woman
     Thomas Becon, From The Catechism
     Cornelius Agrippa, From Of the Nobility and Excellency of Womankind
     Phillip Stubbes, From The Anatomy of Abuses
     Alexander Niccholes, From A Discourse of Marriage and Wiving
     Sir Thomas Smith, From De Republica Anglorum
     Sir Thomas Elyot, From The Book Named the Governor
     Philemon Holland, From Plutarch’s Morals

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 35 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2002

    Warm, funny, adult morality tale

    This is a wonderful play - and unless you have seen it or read it you don't know it at all. That's because everything the popular culture tells us about this play is false (for example; how many of you think this play is about a merchant named Shylock? ;-)<P> The Merchant of Venice is about a merchant named Antonio and his efforts to help his daughter Portia, find a suitable husband. A significant subplot involves a cruel, greedy Jew named Shylock. Some call this play anti-Semitic because of Shylock¿s character, it isn¿t. Making a bad guy Jewish is not anti-Semitic. The other Jew in the play is Shylock¿s daughter Jessica, and she is sweet, kind, and compassionate.<P> There is powerful verbal conflict between the Christian and Jewish world-views in which both sides get a fair hearing and get in their licks. This is almost unheard of today because the Christian side of this dialectic is considered politically incorrect.<P> The Merchant of Venice is a lively and happy morality tale. Good triumphs over bad - charity over greed - love over hate. There is fine comedy. Portia is one of Shakespeare's great women. There are moments of empathy and pain with all the major characters. There is great humanity and earthiness in this play. These things are what elevate Shakespeare over any other playwright in English history. <P> Plays should be seen - not read. I recommend you see this play (if you can find a theater with the courage and skill to do it). But if it is not playing in your area this season - buy the book and read

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2003

    it's a change

    I go to college and for english we had to read the mercant of Venice. It toke me awhile to understand the book but I just kept reading it over and over and I finally understood it. I enjoyed the book as it is different then any other book, it has a script to it so the whole class got to join in, so it ended up being an enjoyable book to read to the class. If you would like a change instead of reading a book that is like every other chose the merchant of venice as it is totally different. I hope you enjoy reading the merchant of venice if you pick to read it.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2000


    This book is one of the best plays I have read! The book features many different characters, which have many attributes that pertain to the main part of the story. The trial scene is an amazing one, with Shylock, the plantiff having the tables turned back onto himself. This is a remarkable book. Anyone who has read Shakespears books will certainly enjoy this one !!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 16, 2011

    Unreadable formatting.

    This book is impossible to read on my Nook. There are breaks between words with number and symbols.

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  • Posted May 26, 2011


    The stoty is great but there a glithes in the book when i read it

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 1, 2011

    is it good??? omgi rrrreeeeaaaalllllllllllllllllyyyy hope so!!!!!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2001

    Dry one line humor

    This book was wonderful once you get into it. The characters come alive, and you feel as though, the character are people in your life. There where a lot unanswered questions but at the end the fill out the emptyness.

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